why alignment (for characters) needs to go


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Star Dragon Caith wrote:

In Golarion, morality is NOT subjective.

. Of course morality is subjective in Golarion. Alignment is not subjective, but morality is.

Which is why Ragathiel and Shelyn disagree about a lot of things, and it is why followers of Saerenrae and Followers of Asmodeus disagree about the proper punishment to a criminal.


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HWalsh wrote:


I don't agree with this.

Every kid who grew up in the 70's or 80's knows what good and evil is. This isn't really that complex.

Demonstrably false. Pick 100 guys from that era (I volunteer).

Ask them if abortion is evil.

I'll wait for the answers.


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HWalsh wrote:


Killing an innocent is an evil act. Full stop. Always. For most characters this isn't important. It takes multiple evil acts to alignment shift.

...

You have a trolley. It is traveling fast, and it is going to trample 50 guys in the railroad. You have the option to deflect it, but if you do so, the driver dies.

Argue if it is a good or evil act to kill the driver to save the guys in the railroad.

I'll wait.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I take the driver's place and deflect the trolley. Thereby saving 51 potentially innocent people. And I die

But I win the internet

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:

And before we add in any other qualifiers that destroy Gustavo's question, there's no question they are ALL innocent and there is NO other option.

1... or 50?

There's a reason that command presence is a hard thing to instill in officers, because those who haven't had to encounter this sort of hard choice don't know how to handle it.

1... or 50.

No other answers.

Which one?

What is gained by answering this question ?


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The Raven Black wrote:
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:

And before we add in any other qualifiers that destroy Gustavo's question, there's no question they are ALL innocent and there is NO other option.

1... or 50?

There's a reason that command presence is a hard thing to instill in officers, because those who haven't had to encounter this sort of hard choice don't know how to handle it.

1... or 50.

No other answers.

Which one?

What is gained by answering this question ?

Wisdom.

Specially because after you answer that the good thing is to kill 1 to save 50, I will add qualifiers like the 1 guy is Ghandi and the other 50 are drunk people who got sleep in the railroad because they were partying. Or what about picking a random guy from a house, killing him, and using his organs to save 50 guys with different diseases. Is that the same than let the driver die to save the bystanders?

If the answer is No, then morality is not black and white.

Silver Crusade

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gustavo iglesias wrote:
HWalsh wrote:


Killing an innocent is an evil act. Full stop. Always. For most characters this isn't important. It takes multiple evil acts to alignment shift.

...You have a trolley. It is traveling fast, and it is going to trample 50 guys in the railroad. You have the option to deflect it, but if you do so, the driver dies.

Argue if it is a good or evil act to kill the driver to save the guys in the railroad.

I'll wait.

Did anyone stop to think the trolley driver intentionally put the 50 guys so they could run them over? That seems pretty evil.

That or it's a society with a bizarre method of execution for some of their more vile criminals.


gustavo iglesias wrote:
HWalsh wrote:


Killing an innocent is an evil act. Full stop. Always. For most characters this isn't important. It takes multiple evil acts to alignment shift.

...

You have a trolley. It is traveling fast, and it is going to trample 50 guys in the railroad. You have the option to deflect it, but if you do so, the driver dies.

Argue if it is a good or evil act to kill the driver to save the guys in the railroad.

I'll wait.

Objective morality. Easy.

Deflect the train.

You didn't kill the driver. The accident did. Your action was deflecting the trolley. You didn't kill the driver, you just couldn't save him.

I didn't even have to think for this.

Ends don't justify the means. That also indicates that the ends don't condemn the means.

You deflected a train to save 50 people. The accident resulted in one death. The Paladin doesn't fall.


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I save a village from an orc raid, fighting them valiantly
Am I good?

I do the same, but there is a reward, which I collect.
Am I good?

I do the same, but there is no reward. However, I am the lord of the whole country, and I get to tax the villagers, which I do.
Am I good?

I do the same, but there is no monetary reward. Just a title, and honor, and I do it for that.
Am I good?

I do the same, but instead of title and honor, I'm rewarded with a spot in heaven in the afterlife.

Am I good?

Alignment in PF is objective. Morality, however, is not.

Silver Crusade

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gustavo iglesias wrote:

I do the same, but there is no reward. However, I am the lord of the whole country, and I get to tax the villagers, which I do.

Am I good?

Where do the taxes go?


gustavo iglesias wrote:

I save a village from an orc raid, fighting them valiantly

Am I good?

I do the same, but there is a reward, which I collect.
Am I good?

I do the same, but there is no reward. However, I am the lord of the whole country, and I get to tax the villagers, which I do.
Am I good?

I do the same, but there is no monetary reward. Just a title, and honor, and I do it for that.
Am I good?

I do the same, but instead of title and honor, I'm rewarded with a spot in heaven in the afterlife.

Am I good?

Alignment in PF is objective. Morality, however, is not.

None of those actions are evil.


HWalsh wrote:


Deflect the train.

You didn't kill the driver. The accident did. Your action was deflecting the trolley. You didn't kill the driver, you just couldn't save him.

I didn't even have to think for this.

Ends don't justify the means. That also indicates that the ends don't condemn the means.

You deflected a train to save 50 people. The accident resulted in one death. The Paladin doesn't fall.

The driver is King Arthur. The 50 guys are thugs, bandits, drunkards and pickpocket ing beggars. No murderers, just poor people who steal. Or better, half of them murderers, the other half, poor pickpocketeer beggars.

Same answer?

The king is a child, the other are old. Like, really really old. With cancer, 6 months of life expectancy
Same answer?

The thieves snd beggars are children.
Same answer?

The driver is driving in a very powerful train your only option is to launch a missile and destroy the train, with King Arthur inside. You actively destroy the train.
Same answer?

King Arthur drives the train willingly, but blindly. There is fog, and he doesn't know the peasents are there. You cannt convince him to stop, he is stubborn. You can only kill him
Same answer?


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HWalsh wrote:
gustavo iglesias wrote:

I save a village from an orc raid, fighting them valiantly

Am I good?

I do the same, but there is a reward, which I collect.
Am I good?

I do the same, but there is no reward. However, I am the lord of the whole country, and I get to tax the villagers, which I do.
Am I good?

I do the same, but there is no monetary reward. Just a title, and honor, and I do it for that.
Am I good?

I do the same, but instead of title and honor, I'm rewarded with a spot in heaven in the afterlife.

Am I good?

Alignment in PF is objective. Morality, however, is not.

None of those actions are evil.

But, are they good?

What if I save the village because of the reward, I don't really care about the people there unless they pay me (or reward me with a spot in heaven). Is that evil?, greedy? Nothing at all?


Rysky wrote:
gustavo iglesias wrote:

I do the same, but there is no reward. However, I am the lord of the whole country, and I get to tax the villagers, which I do.

Am I good?
Where do the taxes go?

To my army. I have a crusade against orcs, and armies are expensive


gustavo iglesias wrote:
HWalsh wrote:
gustavo iglesias wrote:

I save a village from an orc raid, fighting them valiantly

Am I good?

I do the same, but there is a reward, which I collect.
Am I good?

I do the same, but there is no reward. However, I am the lord of the whole country, and I get to tax the villagers, which I do.
Am I good?

I do the same, but there is no monetary reward. Just a title, and honor, and I do it for that.
Am I good?

I do the same, but instead of title and honor, I'm rewarded with a spot in heaven in the afterlife.

Am I good?

Alignment in PF is objective. Morality, however, is not.

None of those actions are evil.

But, are they good?

What if I save the village because of the reward, I don't really care about the people there unless they pay me (or reward me with a spot in heaven). Is that evil?, greedy? Nothing at all?

Neutral.


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I think morality is objective. Even in gray areas, there is right, and there is wrong. That said, everyone has an opinion on what morality should be. And I think all of us are wrong in some capacity. But if two people disagree on what is right, I think one or both of them are incorrect.

However the entire conversation is moot for me because alignment in the game does not try to to answer those questions. The core rulebook is very explicit in calling out that alignment is not intended to communicate universal truth on morality. It's a tool. Unlike with morality, if two people disagree on whether an action is Good or Neutral (or whatever), they can both be right. Because alignment is subjective.

There are a lot of situations in the game where a player and a GM have to communicate well, and have to look to the best interest of the entire group. This takes maturity and selflessness. This is just one of those situations, but that's not enough to just get rid of it. I often see people say something like "well if my GM did that, I would just leave". Really? We can't be mature and talk about our differences? And if the GM is stubbornly unwilling to listen, we can't put up with an inconvenience? I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't have enough friends that I will go find a new group rather than compromise.

Silver Crusade

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gustavo iglesias wrote:
Rysky wrote:
gustavo iglesias wrote:

I do the same, but there is no reward. However, I am the lord of the whole country, and I get to tax the villagers, which I do.

Am I good?
Where do the taxes go?
To my army. I have a crusade against orcs, and armies are expensive

Which orcs? The raiding orcs or the peaceful orcs that own nice land next door?

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

"There are only ever two sides.

The side that wants a war. And the side that does not."

O'chul, before he became a Paladin

Wiser words have rarely been written down


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As to the trolley question

My character saves all fifty people in harms way, regardless of their own intentions to do harm to others, and the trolley driver

Because my character is a hero.


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gustavo iglesias wrote:
HWalsh wrote:


Deflect the train.

You didn't kill the driver. The accident did. Your action was deflecting the trolley. You didn't kill the driver, you just couldn't save him.

I didn't even have to think for this.

Ends don't justify the means. That also indicates that the ends don't condemn the means.

You deflected a train to save 50 people. The accident resulted in one death. The Paladin doesn't fall.

The driver is King Arthur. The 50 guys are thugs, bandits, drunkards and pickpocket ing beggars. No murderers, just poor people who steal. Or better, half of them murderers, the other half, poor pickpocketeer beggars.

Same answer?

Yup. Same answer. You are not killing the person on that train. Your action is saving 50 people by deflecting a train. The ends don't justify, or condemn, the means.

Quote:

The king is a child, the other are old. Like, really really old. With cancer, 6 months of life expectancy

Same answer?

Same answer, because at the end of the day, in Pathfinder the ends do not justify the means.

Quote:

The thieves snd beggars are children.

Same answer?

Yup.

Quote:

The driver is driving in a very powerful train your only option is to launch a missile and destroy the train, with King Arthur inside. You actively destroy the train.

Same answer?

Yup. You still aren't killing him. You are stopping the train, though that is getting into comical territory. Meaning you have already lost the debate.

I mean, in theory, if I have a missile, I could destroy the tracks. I could disarm the warhead and hit the train with the missile to deflect it by the mass. Wither way no, I am not killing him. I am stopping the train to save 50 people.

Quote:

King Arthur drives the train willingly, but blindly. There is fog, and he doesn't know the peasents are there. You cannt convince him to stop, he is stubborn. You can only kill him

Same answer?

LOL

Knock him out at that point.

Sorry good sir, but you lose. When you have to tweak the scenario to such a degree to try to force a failure, then you're being silly.

Because... Here's the best part.

Its not evil to not save the 50 people either. You aren't driving the train. You didn't set these events in motion. If you try to convince Arthur not to keep driving, and fail, you still tried and aren't responsible for the deaths caused.


gustavo iglesias wrote:
HWalsh wrote:
gustavo iglesias wrote:

I save a village from an orc raid, fighting them valiantly

Am I good?

I do the same, but there is a reward, which I collect.
Am I good?

I do the same, but there is no reward. However, I am the lord of the whole country, and I get to tax the villagers, which I do.
Am I good?

I do the same, but there is no monetary reward. Just a title, and honor, and I do it for that.
Am I good?

I do the same, but instead of title and honor, I'm rewarded with a spot in heaven in the afterlife.

Am I good?

Alignment in PF is objective. Morality, however, is not.

None of those actions are evil.

But, are they good?

What if I save the village because of the reward, I don't really care about the people there unless they pay me (or reward me with a spot in heaven). Is that evil?, greedy? Nothing at all?

Most likely neutral. See because you're trying an old trick that I'm probably as old as it is. You are trying what is called a "broad strokes moral quandary."

The trick is this:
You use broad strokes so that you can defeat any argument given. My response is, that doesn't prove anything because the morality system is complex, but still objective.

So we need specifics.

Putting yourself at risk for no reason other than to protect someone else? Good act.

Putting yourself at risk for a reward? Good act.

Putting yourself at risk because you are taxing them, effectively making the village effectively property? Neutral act.


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Planpanther wrote:
There is definitely a problem with folks being able to relate these days. It seems like folks would rather avoid, ostracize, and make a villain out of someone of opposing view, than understand and compromise with them. knockdown dragout philosophical discussion makes the game worth playing. IMO, of course.

Yes. "In your opinion". So you should absolutely be able to play a game with an aspect that makes it worth playing TO YOU. And I should be able to do the same. The fault does not lie in me for my preferences nor in you for yours. It lies in the people responsible for engineering the situation to be one or the other. Had I any hope of reciprocity in this discussion, I would be more willing to try to relate. That ship already sailed before I ever joined the conversation though.


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HWalsh wrote:


LOL

Knock him out at that point.

Sorry...

I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but that is a dilemma that has been studied for years in philosophy, ethics, lawmaking, psichilogy and even military command, and the answer is not clear cut at all. If you think it is, then you did not think about it enough.

Yes, the examples are metaphores. But the dilemma is the same. Picking between 2 accidents, is what a fireman has to do when 2 rooms are on fire and you can only save 1. 50 VS 1 sounds easy. 50 vs King Arthur, the Just King, paragon of leadership, who has the kingdom happy, peaceful and fed, it is harder. TWO people VS king Arthur? One?

Having to send one of them to death is also a dilemma. The dilemma a general has. He can make a probe assault on one flank, to win the battle with fewer loses. But the one unit he pick, he knows he is in fact sending them to death.

So you think the missile example of killing innocents to save others is absurd? What if your missile is huge, and shooting it will end a war and save lives in the long run? Let's call the train "Hiroshima". Do you still think the answer to shooting it or not is easy? Because it is not. People still argue about that.

The blind king in the fog, is akin to an otherwise fine or just king, which happen to be dead wrong on something. Maybe a war VS an enemy, maybe a decision about harvest that you know will backfire into starvation. But he is stubborn, and don't hear you, because fine and just people can be wrong and attached to their mistakes too (pun not intended). Being Lawful Good dies not make you omniscient. Is it fair to kill that king, who is just wrong, to save others?

It is not that easy, my friend. And if you think it is, then it is no surprise you champion for LG paladins. But moral dilemmas aren't easy. That is their point


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HWalsh wrote:
gustavo iglesias wrote:
HWalsh wrote:
gustavo iglesias wrote:

I save a village from an orc raid, fighting them valiantly

Am I good?

I do the same, but there is a reward, which I collect.
Am I good?

I do the same, but there is no reward. However, I am the lord of the whole country, and I get to tax the villagers, which I do.
Am I good?

I do the same, but there is no monetary reward. Just a title, and honor, and I do it for that.
Am I good?

I do the same, but instead of title and honor, I'm rewarded with a spot in heaven in the afterlife.

Am I good?

Alignment in PF is objective. Morality, however, is not.

None of those actions are evil.

But, are they good?

What if I save the village because of the reward, I don't really care about the people there unless they pay me (or reward me with a spot in heaven). Is that evil?, greedy? Nothing at all?

Most likely neutral. See because you're trying an old trick that I'm probably as old as it is. You are trying what is called a "broad strokes moral quandary."

The trick is this:
You use broad strokes so that you can defeat any argument given. My response is, that doesn't prove anything because the morality system is complex, but still objective.

So we need specifics.

Putting yourself at risk for no reason other than to protect someone else? Good act.

Putting yourself at risk for a reward? Good act.

Putting yourself at risk because you are taxing them, effectively making the village effectively property? Neutral act.

so if king Arthur defended his realm, it is no longer a good action?

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I see zero opposition between moral dilemnas and LG-only Paladins


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The Raven Black wrote:
I see zero opposition between moral dilemnas and LG-only Paladins

The opposituon is that, because the LG paladin falls, he forces the group to pick his choice.

However, that is not the debate right now. The debate is that ALIGNMENT is objective, but MORALITY is not. Using the necronomicon to raise undead and stop the invading raiders IS Evil. However, that dies not mean it is wrong.

The opposite is true as well. Refusing to use the necronomicon to defeat the army is LG. What a paladin would do. Even if that means defeat, and everyone in the country raped and killed by the enemy. Because upholding the banner and refusing to use the necronomicon IS the LG thing to do what an Angel would do. But maybe not the right moral choice.

And I'm OK with any decision about the nevronomicon, actually. What I want, is the moral debate. Often, the Paladin can't even engage those debates, tho. The answer is set on stone


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The problem is usually not with the Paladin's choices, but with the agreement between the Player and the Dungeon Master as to what it means to have fun playing a paladin.


gustavo iglesias wrote:
The Raven Black wrote:
I see zero opposition between moral dilemnas and LG-only Paladins

The opposituon is that, because the LG paladin falls, he forces the group to pick his choice.

However, that is not the debate right now. The debate is that ALIGNMENT is objective, but MORALITY is not. Using the necronomicon to raise undead and stop the invading raiders IS Evil. However, that dies not mean it is wrong.

The opposite is true as well. Refusing to use the necronomicon to defeat the army is LG. What a paladin would do. Even if that means defeat, and everyone in the country raped and killed by the enemy. Because upholding the banner and refusing to use the necronomicon IS the LG thing to do what an Angel would do. But maybe not the right moral choice.

And I'm OK with any decision about the nevronomicon, actually. What I want, is the moral debate. Often, the Paladin can't even engage those debates, tho. The answer is set on stone

I really think you have this backwards. Alignment is subjective. That's why the Batman debates are pointless, because a single act can be considered to fall under different alignments by different people. And that's provided for in the rules.

So no, the answer is not set in stone. And yes, the Paladin can engage in those debates. A Paladin is allowed to choose the greater good. If I had a Paladin cast a CE spell to save a village from a horde of devils, I would not make that Paladin fall. And I'm within my rights to do that. Similar to what Terquem said, that's a conversation between the GM and the player. But Paizo has not published a 300 page document outlining exactly what falls within what alignment, and what would cause a paladin to fall. And a character can commit a CE act and still be LG (see clause in CRB pg 166 about how no one is entirely consistent).

In my experience, when people talk about how paladins are disruptive or paladins fall at the slightest moral quandary, it's because they take only the most hard-line interpretation of LG, and are unwilling to consider intentions of the character or different interpretations of the alignment.


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Malachandra wrote:


I really think you have this backwards. Alignment is subjective. That's why the Batman debates are pointless, because a single act can be considered to fall under different alignments by different people. And that's provided for in the rules.

No, our inability as players to determine what is or is not LG or CN is what is subjetive. In game, tho, Alignment is objetive. There is no kind of "point of view" about if something is or is not evil. You cast detect evil on it, it gives you a definitive answer (maybe the in-game answer with you as a GM is different than with me, or HMWalsh, but it is definitive anyways in each world). A paladin cast smite evil on someone. If he is evil, he adds his level to damage, if he is not evil, he doesnt. He does not get to add his level against people who agree with abortion if his own view is against abortion, while the next paladin can have a different view about abortion, and thus will not add the damage. The moral point of view of somebody using Animate Dead in Pathfinder is not relative, and different to each individual, like it is in real life for abortion or euthanasia or death penalty. Animate Dead is Evil, because it has [Evil] written on it.

Now, you can ignore the [Evil] tag in your own homegame, just like others ban Paladins, or magic items, or whatever. But RAW, and in PFS, Animate Dead IS [Evil]. That does not mean using it is wrong. Saving the village is the right thing to do. But it's [Evil]. Evil aligned people can do the right thing, and Good aligned people can do the wrong thing.


Tectorman wrote:
Planpanther wrote:
There is definitely a problem with folks being able to relate these days. It seems like folks would rather avoid, ostracize, and make a villain out of someone of opposing view, than understand and compromise with them. knockdown dragout philosophical discussion makes the game worth playing. IMO, of course.
Yes. "In your opinion". So you should absolutely be able to play a game with an aspect that makes it worth playing TO YOU. And I should be able to do the same. The fault does not lie in me for my preferences nor in you for yours. It lies in the people responsible for engineering the situation to be one or the other. Had I any hope of reciprocity in this discussion, I would be more willing to try to relate. That ship already sailed before I ever joined the conversation though.

I thought there was a plan to sidebar alignment out for folks who dont want it?


gustavo iglesias wrote:
Malachandra wrote:


I really think you have this backwards. Alignment is subjective. That's why the Batman debates are pointless, because a single act can be considered to fall under different alignments by different people. And that's provided for in the rules.

No, our inability as players to determine what is or is not LG or CN is what is subjetive. In game, tho, Alignment is objetive. There is no kind of "point of view" about if something is or is not evil. You cast detect evil on it, it gives you a definitive answer (maybe the in-game answer with you as a GM is different than with me, or HMWalsh, but it is definitive anyways in each world). A paladin cast smite evil on someone. If he is evil, he adds his level to damage, if he is not evil, he doesnt. He does not get to add his level against people who agree with abortion if his own view is against abortion, while the next paladin can have a different view about abortion, and thus will not add the damage. The moral point of view of somebody using Animate Dead in Pathfinder is not relative, and different to each individual, like it is in real life for abortion or euthanasia or death penalty. Animate Dead is Evil, because it has [Evil] written on it.

Now, you can ignore the [Evil] tag in your own homegame, just like others ban Paladins, or magic items, or whatever. But RAW, and in PFS, Animate Dead IS [Evil]. That does not mean using it is wrong. Saving the village is the right thing to do. But it's [Evil]. Evil aligned people can do the right thing, and Good aligned people can do the wrong thing.

Are we talking about actions, or mechanics? I'm not arguing that spells shouldn't have the Evil tag, or that Detect Evil shouldn't work on people who have an evil alignment. But certain actions can be considered alignment gray areas. Back to the Batman example, I've seen people make cases that he is CN, CG, NG, LG, and LN. And there is no set of rules that give a definitive answer. So I don't see how you can claim that alignment is universally objective. Mechanics are objective, as your examples pointed out.


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Planpanther wrote:
Tectorman wrote:
Planpanther wrote:
There is definitely a problem with folks being able to relate these days. It seems like folks would rather avoid, ostracize, and make a villain out of someone of opposing view, than understand and compromise with them. knockdown dragout philosophical discussion makes the game worth playing. IMO, of course.
Yes. "In your opinion". So you should absolutely be able to play a game with an aspect that makes it worth playing TO YOU. And I should be able to do the same. The fault does not lie in me for my preferences nor in you for yours. It lies in the people responsible for engineering the situation to be one or the other. Had I any hope of reciprocity in this discussion, I would be more willing to try to relate. That ship already sailed before I ever joined the conversation though.
I thought there was a plan to sidebar alignment out for folks who dont want it?

I need for it to do more than just "technically exist". P1E had a section in Pathfinder Unchained about nixing alignment. It technically existed there. But as a playstyle, it had next to no support and a player who needed that as an option to be able to play the game would still have to fight to get it made available. Little better than a houserule. Starfinder, on the other hand, flat out tells us on page 25 that alignment is contingent for exactly nothing and can be ignored as easily as the player saying "Opt out" and just not writing anything on his character sheet. Same playstyle, but one does more than just technically exist.

In like fashion, the LG, Code-abiding Paladin exists now and can be playtested as soon as the Alpha becomes available. We can't even playtest other versions of the Paladin. Even should they be available in the Beta, players in favor of that option are still behind in terms of the options they can exercise, the mechanical refinement their version of the class has, and other advantages that being introduced at day one grant.

Still no reciprocity.

Liberty's Edge

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Not to get into the Alignment debate per se (I've said my piece on that many posts ago in this thread), but can we stop using the Batman example?

The problem with Batman is not a problem with Alignment, it's a problem with inconsistent characterization. Dozens of writers have written Batman over the years and have done so in vastly different ways. It's impossible to do any description of Batman's personality using any metric that's actually accurate to all of them. Blaming the metric (Alignment in this case) is sorta missing the point, IMO.

So the problem with 'What Alignment is Batman?' is much more a problem with Batman (or any other character written by so many different people who never talked with each other) than with Alignment.


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Deadmanwalking wrote:

Not to get into the Alignment debate per se (I've said my piece on that many posts ago in this thread), but can we stop using the Batman example?

The problem with Batman is not a problem with Alignment, it's a problem with inconsistent characterization. Dozens of writers have written Batman over the years and have done so in vastly different ways. It's impossible to do any description of Batman's personality using any metric that's actually accurate to all of them. Blaming the metric (Alignment in this case) is sorta missing the point, IMO.

So the problem with 'What Alignment is Batman?' is much more a problem with Batman (or any other character written by so many different people who never talked with each other) than with Alignment.

I see what you're saying, and maybe I shouldn't have used him as an example, but I actually disagree. I think even with one characterization there would be much debate (hence the need for the Vigilante class to have multiple alignments). And I don't think that debate would be conclusive, certainly not by the rules.

And that's really what I'm trying to say, that alignment does not always have a definitive answer, because it's subjective.

Liberty's Edge

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Malachandra wrote:

I see what you're saying, and maybe I shouldn't have used him as an example, but I actually disagree. I think even with one characterization there would be much debate (hence the need for the Vigilante class to have multiple alignments). And I don't think that debate would be conclusive, certainly not by the rules.

And that's really what I'm trying to say, that alignment does not always have a definitive answer, because it's subjective.

Oh, there'd probably be a debate, yeah, because Alignment is indeed subjective to some degree (OOC anyway). But in my experience (and I've seen a lot of Alignment debates), even in the most morally ambiguous works (like Game of Thrones) people collectively can generally peg most characters within an Alignment or so if the character's been written consistently by one writer or group. Yeah, they may not agree exactly, but the majority of people can come much closer to consensus on most characters than the Batman example implies.


Malachandra wrote:
And that's really what I'm trying to say, that alignment does not always have a definitive answer, because it's subjective.

It isn't though. Through magic, you can literally say "Unnamed Vigilante of the Night is X." Because that's what they detected as, what the spell told you.

What that alignment means to the player or GM? Definitely subjective. Alignment itself? Not subjective. If it were subjective, and not a defined in-setting force with actual mechanical impact...there really wouldn't be near as much heated debate about it. There wouldn't be near as many problems, either.

Liberty's Edge

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Alignment is objective in-universe. It's verifiable and universal.

Alignment is subjective in the real world, since it's up to each individual GM to say what version of morality is objectively true in the games they run.


See, I'm not convinced alignment is even objective in universe. A person may detect as a specific alignment, sure, but that doesn't mean all of their actions are that alignment. People keep going back to "but the mechanics do this", but that's not the point. In universe, there are so many different interpretations of what it means to be lawful. Many concepts can be viewed as multiple alignments. That's because in-universe alignment is not the same thing as in-universe morality, if that makes sense. Alignment is a tool, for roleplaying and mechanics, and people seem to consistently forget that.

So many actions straddle the line between alignments, and so many concepts simply defy or even transcend the alignment system entirely. To say that alignments are concrete, universal, or objective seems an over reach.

Liberty's Edge

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In-universe Alignment is absolutely objective. It's just that objective and simple or easy to understand are not necessarily the same thing.

The Laws of Physics are also objective, and yet we have all sorts of stuff we don't understand or have a good idea how to interact with in regards to them. Likening in-universe Alignment to physics is a pretty solid analogy, since in both the really obvious stuff (ie: things fall when you drop them, murdering children is Evil) is pretty intuitive, but the more it's examined the more complicated the underlying stuff is.

I really want to play a 'Professor of Alignment Studies' in some game, but I must admit I'm not even sure what Class to make that character as...


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How about we just remove Law and Chaos?


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MuddyVolcano wrote:


How about we just remove Law and Chaos?

I suggested this before.

and I agree.

gets rid of half the alignment issues threads..


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gustavo iglesias wrote:
Star Dragon Caith wrote:

In Golarion, morality is NOT subjective.

. Of course morality is subjective in Golarion. Alignment is not subjective, but morality is.

Which is why Ragathiel and Shelyn disagree about a lot of things, and it is why followers of Saerenrae and Followers of Asmodeus disagree about the proper punishment to a criminal.

Alignment isn't objective. It's subjective to the DM.


gustavo iglesias wrote:
HWalsh wrote:


Killing an innocent is an evil act. Full stop. Always. For most characters this isn't important. It takes multiple evil acts to alignment shift.

You have a trolley. It is traveling fast, and it is going to trample 50 guys in the railroad. You have the option to deflect it, but if you do so, the driver dies.

Argue if it is a good or evil act to kill the driver to save the guys in the railroad.

I'll wait.

That all depends on which morality you follow. If you are utilitarian, then you must do your best to decide which action will result in the greatest good. This is why alignment is too broad for a well-developed character: some characters are utilitarian and claim a "good" alignment. However, they would sometimes choose one thing or another depending on the circumstance, effectively making all questions of good or evil about intent. If I were a utilitarian, I probably kill the driver. It will depend on my opinion of the driver, and of the people in the road, and what I think is best.

If you follow a more actions-based morality, your answer to the trolley problem is very different. "Do not murder an innocent" is vastly different from "do not allow an innocent to die." If I were a moral objectivist, then if I choose to divert the trolley and kill the driver, I have murdered him. If the trolley kills fifty people, then that was a tragic accident and not my fault. In a morality that judges actions rather than utility, I act so as to keep my conscience clean. Now, I should probably offer to take the driver's place and be the one that dies, but let us assume that is not an option. I cannot murder to save lives. Period.

Both of these hypothetical selves believe themselves good.

There could also be a hypothetical me who believes that those who put themselves in such a stupid scenario as to be on a trolley track deserve to die (natural selection and all), and that the human race as a whole would be better off without members such as that. This self also believes himself to be doing "the right thing."


MuddyVolcano wrote:


How about we just remove Law and Chaos?

No thanks. I love taking on maruts and devils and stuff. I need lawful and chaotic bamfs to do it.


Planpanther wrote:
MuddyVolcano wrote:


How about we just remove Law and Chaos?

No thanks. I love taking on maruts and devils and stuff. I need lawful and chaotic bamfs to do it.

umm think that might just have been for pcs....

though could be wrong there....

but I'm totally on board for removing the lawful and chaotic axis for player characters


I think i give my view on Alignments before i go on my rant on why alignment should go.

As of the current state of alignment i see them merely as descriptors like a "AI" that is just a note that say "This character is most likely to behave towards X". If your character is Good he will tend against good actions or at least good intent. The alignment is not "forced" on a character, the character is naturally drawn to do what he believes in and his beliefs and values are in the description of said alignment.

Alignment as a descriptor, not as a leash.

So in my eyes the major problem with alignment is that people believe its a more enforcable mechanic than it really is, plus its a begone product of a simpler time where heroes were heroes and villains were villains. Nowadays there is two things that pokes at this alignment system is that 1: Grey zoned anti-heroes and villians that have a point, 2: The dislike of being stereotyped or "put into a box".
Point 2 i admit is a assumption, blurring the lines of game morals and real life does make a mess out of things.

Going to bring back the point someone had to remove one of the axis, though someone felt to remove Law and Chaos i propose the opposite to remove the Good and Evil axis instead. You do have neccesary evils to bring the law, and you have to break the law to do good... Though maybe it should be "Order and Chaos"? Good and Evil is in my opinion too vague of a term.

Due to premature submit i did not get to my point: The point i am trying to make here is that the alignment system was or maybe still is based on the players keeping to a bit of a black & white fairytale thinking which based around the tropes of fantasy.

Now that the fantasy lines have been blurred by popular media in D&D, games, movies and books this system is rapidly becomming incompadible with players explosed to these greyzones.


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Malachandra wrote:


Are we talking about actions, or mechanics? I'm not arguing that spells shouldn't have the Evil tag, or that Detect Evil shouldn't work on people who have an evil alignment. But certain actions can be considered alignment gray areas. Back to the Batman example, I've seen people make cases that he is CN, CG, NG, LG, and LN. And there is no set of rules that give a definitive answer. So I don't see how you can...

Both actions and mechanics.

All actions are objectively linked to an alignment "in world". Now, the answer to "kill all orc prisoners" for example, might be different in, say, PFS, your home world, or my homeworld. But inside each game world, it is consistent and objective. If some angel detects evil while you do, and it does ping, it's evil, if it does not, it is not.

Now, the thing is, being labeled Evil or Good, according to alignment, is not enough to know if it is moraly right or not. Morality is still subjective. Alignment is not.

For example, executing a child molester by quartering him might be LE (something a hellknight would do) while forgiving him might be NG (something Saerenrae followers might do). That the hell knight did something morally wrong, and the Saerenrae did something right, is subjective, tho. People will have differnt opinions about that


gustavo iglesias wrote:
Malachandra wrote:


Are we talking about actions, or mechanics? I'm not arguing that spells shouldn't have the Evil tag, or that Detect Evil shouldn't work on people who have an evil alignment. But certain actions can be considered alignment gray areas. Back to the Batman example, I've seen people make cases that he is CN, CG, NG, LG, and LN. And there is no set of rules that give a definitive answer. So I don't see how you can...

Both actions and mechanics.

All actions are objectively linked to an alignment "in world". Now, the answer to "kill all orc prisoners" for example, might be different in, say, PFS, your home world, or my homeworld. But inside each game world, it is consistent and objective. If some angel detects evil while you do, and it does ping, it's evil, if it does not, it is not.

Now, the thing is, being labeled Evil or Good, according to alignment, is not enough to know if it is moraly right or not. Morality is still subjective. Alignment is not.

For example, executing a child molester by quartering him might be LE (something a hellknight would do) while forgiving him might be NG (something Saerenrae followers might do). That the hell knight did something morally wrong, and the Saerenrae did something right, is subjective, tho. People will have differnt opinions about that

That's not how detect alignment works. You can't use it to see if any individual action is aligned. If that were the case, I would not have my position.

Alignment is a tool, paired down for simplicity. If it were a more full representation of morality, it would get closer to being objective. But there are too many actions and concepts that can easily fit into two alignments. You actually gave examples that convince me of this.

As for concepts that transcend alignment, take Cthulhu for an example. We can call him CE, but that kind of misses the point of Lovecraftian horror. I'm certainly no expert on the Cthulhu Mythos, but the Great Old Ones aren't really Evil (by and large). They are outside of human understanding. The fey are similar in this. Pathfinder bestiaries require an alignment, so fey always have one, but it's often just an ineffective approximation to describe to us Material Plane folks how a fey might act.

Alignment is a slapped-on label in many cases. And that's fine, because it's a tool we use. It's when we start taking it beyond it's intended purpose that we start having problems and want to remove it entirely.

On a side note, for the question of morality I think you are confusing interpretation of morality with morality itself. Just because two people disagree on what is right and what is wrong doesn't mean that morality is subjective. This comes down to world view stuff, and you might disagree which is no problem. But asking morally difficult questions does not make morality subjective. I don't always have the right answer, but I believe that a right answer exists regardless. I'm fine with people disagreeing with that sentiment, I just want to make sure we are discussing the right thing.


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Steelfiredragon wrote:
Planpanther wrote:
MuddyVolcano wrote:


How about we just remove Law and Chaos?

No thanks. I love taking on maruts and devils and stuff. I need lawful and chaotic bamfs to do it.

umm think that might just have been for pcs....

though could be wrong there....

but I'm totally on board for removing the lawful and chaotic axis for player characters

Still no thanks. I want my PC to be laying down the law or delivering discord to their foes!

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